Monday, August 23, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 201 (8/23) -- Mister O by Lewis Trondheim

A small round figure tries, repeatedly, to cross a small chasm without luck. Sometime he's alone, sometimes there are other "men" (similarly simplified figures) to help him or stop him or just cause trouble, sometimes there are birds or beasts, and sometimes just trees and rocks. But he always fails -- and he usually dies, or falls into the chasm, or both.

That's the plot, such as it is, of Lewis Trondheim's Mister O, a 32-page album-sized collection of single-page wordless comics. Mister O is that round figure, and he fails in his attempts to cross the chasm just as routinely -- and as baroquely, and as humorously -- as Wile E. Coyote does in his own pursuits. The fun, as always with a simple premise like that, is in seeing how many changes the creator can ring on his simple materials -- and Trondheim doesn't disappoint, making each page a mini-opera of hope, frustration, and mayhem. Each page has sixty equally-sized panels, making Mister O closer to film than most comics; we're seeing this round guy through exactly the same box over and over and over again, and he keeps trying, and failing, to cross the chasm.

Mister O is cacklingly funny, as the reader alternately sympathizes with Mister O's plight and laughs at his downfall. This is just great comics, of the purest form -- the kind of book that can cross borders, and race around the world, without any need of translation or changes.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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